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Encounters with Material Culture: Objects and Archaeology

CX 111-15

Close-up image of the capital of a decorated Ionic column at the archeological site of Delphi.

Module website for students can be found here!


This module will provide students with the tools required to approach and interpret the material culture of the ancient world, and to understand the different questions which can be asked of this material. It will look at how we approach and define ancient material culture, including the study of buildings, art-works, inscriptions and everyday objects. We will consider issues such as material, production and consumption, style, form and iconography, contexts of discovery and use, as well as the ways objects communicate and change over their lifetimes. The module will also act as a taster for the exploration of some of these aspects in more detail in our Honours-level modules.

Module aims

The module aims to introduce students to some of the main areas relevant to the study of material culture from the ancient world. Students will learn how to describe objects, thinking about aspects such as production, material, style and iconography. They will also learn how to interpret drawings and reconstructions, as well as exploring some of the different roles objects play in different contexts. Assessment methods will develop skills in presenting and describing ancient objects, as well as communicating their significance to different audiences.


Term 2, Week 1: Introduction/Context of the module (CT)

Term 2, Week 2: Architecture (SFK)

Term 2, Week 3: Human Remains (CP)

Term 2, Week 4: Pottery in Art and Archaeology (CT)

Term 2, Week 4b: Seminar: Working with Pottery (CT)

Term 2, Week 5: Ordering & Presenting the Past/poster training session (SFK & RT)

Term 2, Week 6: READING WEEK

Term 2, Week 7: Sculpture (JB)

Term 2, Week 8: Coinage (KB)

Term 2, Week 8b: Seminar: Working with Coinage (AW)

Term 2, Week 9: Inscriptions (AC)

Term 2, Week 10: Domestic Decoration (JB)


Attendance (10%)

Poster & Presentation (40%)

1hr Examination in Term 3 (50%)

Introductory Reading List and Bibliography

Bintliff, J. (2012) Complete Archaeology of Greece: From Hunter-Gatherers to the 20th Century A.D. Wiley-Blackwell.

Cooley, A. (2012) The Cambridge manual of Latin epigraphy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elsner, J. (1995) Art and the Roman viewer: the transformation of art from the pagan world to Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elsner, J. (1998) Imperial Rome and Christian triumph: the art of the Roman Empire, AD 100-450. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Greene, K. and Moore, T. (2010) Archaeology: an introduction. 5th ed. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Henig, M. (1983) A handbook of Roman art: a survey of the visual arts of the Roman world . Oxford: Phaidon.

Hirt, A.M. (2010) Imperial Mines and Quarries in the Roman World: Organizational Aspects 27. Oxford University Press, USA.

Hodder, I. (2004) Theory and Practice in Archaeology. Taylor & Francis Ebooks.

Hodder, I. and Hutson, S. (2003) Reading the past: current approaches to interpretation in archaeology. Third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Neer, R.T. (2012) Art & archaeology of the Greek world: a new history, C.2500-C.150 BCE. London: Thames & Hudson.

Neer, R.T. (2019) Art & archaeology of the Greek world: a new history, c.2500-c.150 BCE. Second edition. London: Thames and Hudson.

Nevett, L.C. (2010) Domestic space in classical antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Newby, Z. and Leader-Newby, R.E. (2007) Art and inscriptions in the ancient world. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Orton, C. and Hughes, M. (2013) Pottery in archaeology. Second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Peña, J.T. (2007) Roman pottery in the archaeological record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Renfrew, C. and Bahn, P.G. (2016) Archaeology: Theories, Methods, and Practice. Seventh edition revised & updated. London: Thames & Hudson.

Rice, P.M. (2015) Pottery Analysis, Second Edition. The University of Chicago Press.

Russell, B. (2014) The economics of the Roman stone trade. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stansbury-O’Donnell, M. (2011) Looking at Greek art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stewart, P. (2008) The social history of Roman art. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Trigger, B.G. (2006) A history of archaeological thought. Second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tuck, S.L. (2021) History of Roman Art. 2nd Revised edition. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Ward-Perkins, J.B. et al. (1992) Marble in antiquity: collected papers of J.B. Ward-Perkins. London: British School at Rome.

Whitley, J. (2001) The archaeology of ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.